By Steve Moran

Life and business are long strings of experiments …

  • Some of which work extraordinarily well
  • Some which work okay
  • Some that are good starts but need to be worked on
  • Some that don’t work and will never work

One of life’s biggest challenges is quitting the things that aren’t working and are never going to work. The more time, energy, and money we have poured into them, the harder it is to give them up. I am talking about things like …

  • New business lines
  • Personal relationships
  • Business relationships
  • People you hired and who didn’t perform
  • People you hired who performed once and don’t anymore
  • Management styles

Quitting Is Hard

This is one of a series of articles that are inspired by the book Quit, by Annie Duke, which will likely be the best book I read all year. We all have things we have quit but that we waited too long to quit. People we should have fired years ago. Business experiments where it was clear the outcomes were never going to be great. It is a personal problem and a business problem.

It is even a national problem. Think about the Vietnam War, the Afghanistan War.

What can make it hurt more is when, after you finally quit something, a “friend” says something like this to you: “I am so glad you finally gave up on that relationship, employee, business line, way of doing things, because I could see for a long time that it wasn’t going to work.”

You ask why they didn’t tell you and discover that it was because they didn’t want to hurt you — except that by not telling you to keep from hurting you, they really hurt you more, leaving you to suffer way longer than you might have otherwise.

The Other Problem

The other problem, of course, is this: If someone had told you earlier, would you really have changed course, or would you have just gotten mad? From time to time, I see people doing things or hear about people doing things where I think, “That is not going to turn out well,” and find myself wanting to reach out to the person and offer my observations, thinking that if I were that leader, I would want to know.

In fact, in just the past few weeks, I have had this happen twice. In one case, I made the call because I was pretty sure it would be appreciated, and in the second case I have remained and will remain silent because I am 98% sure the call would go badly and hurt the relationship.

And yet, in the case where I will remain silent, talking to them could make a real difference in the life of that leader and in their business.

A Quitting Coach

Perhaps what each of us needs is someone who we trust who is close enough, smart enough, and courageous enough to talk to us about a need to change directions, even when that change will hurt like crazy. It will mean admitting defeat and moving on.

And yet, how much better would your life be if you had quit some of the things you did quit but done so earlier?